In our politically correct world, we may have lost our intellectual way. Sometimes it is perfectly appropriate and necessary to point out what’s wrong.
- Having a healthcare background, I tend to look for a solution based on a diagnosis, which in turn is based on symptoms. If a patient won’t discuss the symptoms, it is easy to assume that everything is just fine. On the other hand, the symptoms, when correlated with other observations can lead to an appropriate conclusion; the patient complaining of a headache may be suffering from a brain tumor—unless an examination of the patient discloses a three inch nail protruding from his skull. However, the presence of the nail does not make a brain tumor impossible.
- A careful analysis of any problem requires the inclusion of potential errors and oversights. A devil’s advocate is a useful technique in fact finding. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the devil’s advocate is “a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments.” In hindsight, the questions about the rubber seals on the solid state boosters attached to the shuttle Challenger were not given sufficient consideration in the decision to launch. Far too often, we wish away certain problems or issues, with disastrous results.
- Often, particularly in politics, data is intentionally skewed and intended to result in an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. For example, a negative ad by a political action committee may claim that, “Candidate Bob Smith says he believes in the sanctity of life, but it is a well-known fact that he has eaten dead babies.” This statement is true, in a manner of speaking, since just this morning Smith’s breakfast included scrambled eggs.
A conclusion is best based on facts—”pesky things” according to John Adams. It’s important to include all available and relevant facts–the good, the bad and the ugly in the equation before attempting to determine the answer.